Monday, January 16, 2012

preaching to the pastor.

So this was the sermon for this past weekend.  While Dr. Carlson was here from Gettysburg Seminary on Sunday morning, this was the message folks heard if they were here Saturday or Sunday evening.  See my reflections on how it played out on Sunday evening after the sermon....

January 15, 2012
Second Sunday after Epiphany

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen. 

We’ve just heard the story of god calling to Samuel, I’d like to share another story with you. 

It is something that happened to Kelly Fryer, a former Lutheran Pastor.   

Can you remember what you were doing the second weekend in November 2001? 
Kelly can. 

For over a year, she had been scheduled to speak that weekend at a conference outside of Washington, D.C. After the events of September 11, 2001, the conference organizers agreed they would not be frightened into changing their plans. 

Heeding the dire warnings about long lines at the airport, she arrived three hours early.  Even so, she was the last one to the gate.  Huffing and puffing, she made her way down the jet bridge and onto the plane, which was packed full, in spite of the fear that still gripped most of us. 
Pulling a little suitcase behind her and carrying both a guitar and a briefcase with her laptop in it, she made her way down the crowded aisle toward her seat.  Naturally, it was the last one on the plane. 

As if she wasn’t being intrusive enough, suddenly one of the flight attendants started walking towards her from the back of the plane – and talking to her.  “You must be Kelly!” he said a little eerily and loudly enough to elicit glares from many of the other frazzled, frisked and freaked-out passengers who suddenly realized the cause of their delay. 

The attendant continued, “A guitar, huh?  Looks like you’re going to be playing some music!”  In the middle of that deadly quiet airplane, it felt like he was shouting.  “What kind do you play?”

“Ummm….all kinds,” she said, feeling her cheeks go red.  He took some of her bags and helped her down the aisle. 
“What are you going to D.C. for?” he asked her.

“A conference,” she answered quickly, trying as unobtrusively as she could to reach her seat.
“Sounds great! Are you playing your guitar at the conference?” ….and so this awkward banter continued all the way to the back of the plane, where he helped her stow her gear.

After he moved away, she settled in for takeoff.  She had just closed her eyes to rest, when suddenly the “helpful” attendant reappeared. 

“Kelly,” he said softly, conspiratorial now, like a fifth grade friend scheming something behind the teacher’s back.
Her eyes popped open to see him crouching down beside her.

“Yeeesss,” she said suspiciously.
“See that guy sitting two seats in front of you on the other side of the aisle?”
Now, of course, he had her undivided attention.
“If he does anything suspicious, let me know.”
And the attendant stood up and walked away.

Kelly was dumbfounded.  The first thing she thought was….something I can’t say in church.  The second thing she thought was that 9-11 must have made this poor attendant go right off the deep end.  But the third thing she thought was, What if that guy does do something suspicious?”

She never took her eyes off the guy the whole trip.  As soon as the captain gave the “okay,” she grabbed her laptop because it was the heaviest thing she had as a weapon if need be.

Well, nothing happened on that flight.  They landed in D.C. and people piled off the plane, oblivious to the excitement going on (in Kelly’s imagination.)  All the while they were deplaning; she was trying to decide whether to report the odd behavior of the flight attendant. 

The man she had been “watching” was among the very last off the plane, of course, and Kelly was just a few feet behind him. 

So, she got an eyeful as the huddle of D.C. police officers and FBI agents, who had been waiting for him on the Jetway, hauled him away in handcuffs. 

“Are you kidding me?!?,” Kelly thought to herself, flabbergasted as she shuffled through the airport to find her shuttle.  “You are totally kidding me, right?  I mean, am I the best plan they’ve got?”

Have you ever felt that way?  Or wondered why you were the one called or chosen for something? 

Well, look around you….you’re not alone. 
We’ve all been called together….in this place….in this community of faith….to be the body of Christ here and now in the world around us. 

We are the ordinary…the imperfect…a band of misfits, if you will….answering God’s call to be in this place here and now. 

We also answer the call as we continue to do things in this place and in our community so that people may see God’s love and grace in the world around us. 

God called Samuel…it took several times for Samuel to figure out that God was calling to him, but with Eli’s help, he figured out whose voice was calling. 

And he said, here I am Lord, speak for your servant is listening.    Samuel was only 12…but that didn’t matter.  God had chosen him and called him to be a part of God’s plan to love and save and bless the world.  And that didn’t mean smooth sailing for Samuel. 

Samuel had to deliver tough news to a priest, nonetheless.  God's words to Samuel were hard to hear and even harder to speak to others, for they involved judgment against Eli's own children. Like Samuel, God's call often involves working to change human systems that are broken, leading one down difficult paths.

God's call comes when we least expect it and often to those we least expect. God is always the God of surprises. We, as the church, need to be like Eli, encouraging everyone to hear the voice that calls them forth into all they are created to be. At the same time, we help each other to tell the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear.

We might hear this story of Samuel and think, really God?  He’s the best you’ve got?

Just like when God calls to each of us…we may question why God has called us to be a part of this amazing mission to love and save the world. 

But God continues to call….and call….and call……and God’s people have been answering for thousands of years… have you heard God’s call?  And how is God calling you to serve? 

Who teaches the children in Sunday School?  Ordinary people, like you and like me, whom God has equipped for teaching and leading.  Does God call all of us to do this?  Probably not all of us….

So who takes care of setting up and cleaning up as part of the Altar Guild?  Ordinary people, like you and like me, whom God has equipped for set up and cleanup.  Does God call all of us to do this?  Maybe…

Who greets people as they come in to worship?  Ordinary people, like you and like me, whom God has equipped for welcoming and inviting.  Does God call all of us to do this?  I think so. 

Are you catching on here? 

Who shares the good news of God being at work in the world around us?  Who tells others about what God is doing in this place – at Trinity – and in our community and world?  Ordinary people, like you and like me.  Does God call all of us to do this? 

You’d better believe it. 

Maybe we get nervous about talking about our faith…or talking about church, but think about this: 
 “The act of testifying is personal, but never private, which means discipleship is a shared and sharing enterprise conducive to nurturing community that is centered in ongoing testimony about Jesus.”

The act of testifying….of sharing the good news of Jesus, of telling others to come and see is an opportunity to share something that is near and dear to our hearts.  But it isn’t private, it’s something we share with one another, in this nurturing faith community that is centered around God’s love, forgiveness and grace. 

And it is something God calls each of us to do…because we’re the best the best plan God’s got.

May God bless us all as we go and invite others to come and see and may the peace which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say amen. 

So, there I was asking those gathered who teaches our Sunday School...well at the contemporary service there was a teacher right there....there she was in our midst talking about being a Sunday School teacher and talking about how that morning at worship her grandad was a greeter.  In the midst of proclaiming the good message of God at work in the world around us - here and now - here was this awesome young woman telling me about the gifts that she and here grandad have....she was pointing out to me how God is busy at work through the ordinary peopler (like you and like me) to continue to show the world forgiveness, love and undending grace. 

Again, I give thanks for the opportunity to serve here at Trinity.  And the opportunity to hear the gospel preached to places and times I least expect it. 

Until the next moment of grace . . .